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Women in Manufacturing: Vapor Stone Rail Systems

Within TDC’s Premier Industrial Parks there are many businesses that literally keep us moving. Air Industrial Park hosts 25 businesses, Banker Road Industrial Park hosts 6 businesses and within these parks, a wide variety of international industrial manufacturers do business. Within those businesses are thousands of men and women assembling cables, machines, lighting, trains and buses by hand. This month, in honor of Women’s History Month, we will be focusing on the women working in the manufacturing industry here in the Greater Plattsburgh region. During the next few weeks we will be sharing local stories of women within the industry in a variety of positions.

We asked a set of questions to learn what led these professionals to manufacturing and, to share what advice they could offer other people, especially women-to-women. These stories will certainly inspire others in many ways. They may validate current work or career paths, influence a change in job field or, pique the interest of young people as they enter the workforce or head off to college.  Each woman's pathway is unique and we are thankful for their hard work, dedication, perseverance and contributions to the North Country and to the manufacturing industry. We continue to celebrate them and all women who make us move! 

From left to right: Holly Black, Kimberly Longtin, Sharon McGarr, Elizabeth Mitchell and Stephanie Guay

Q & A 

Stephanie has worked in transportation for 14 years, and has been at Vapor Stone for over 2 years.

Logistics, Planning and Warehouse Manager

1. What advice would you give to young people, especially young women going into male dominated industries?

My advice is be yourself and earn the respect of the others that you are working with; you need to do this by being assertive and not aggressive and believing in yourself.

2. Did you have a mentor? What was memorable about that person?

I actually have had two mentors over the course of my career.  They were both always positive and willing to share ideas knowledge and expertise and actual took a personal interest in mentoring me and helping me grow. They did this by helping me to identify the areas of improvement that I needed to focus on. A really good book that I still look back on from time to time “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey was suggested by one of them and we would actually go over so of the areas during a mentoring session.

3. What do you love about living, working and playing here in the Adirondacks?

I love the endless variety of activities, and the beauty of the seasons that we have in the Adirondacks.
Elizabeth has been with Vapor Stone for three years. Previously, she worked at Alstom/Bombardier.

Quality Engineering Specialist

1. What education (formal or informal) pathway did you choose and how has it helped you through your career?

Honestly,  I started 22 years ago as an assembler, was then approached about a Quality Assurance technician position, which led to enrolling in the Mechanical Technology program at Clinton Community College.  I also, went to training for nondestructive testing for penetrant testing (PT), magnetic particle testing (MT) of welds.  I am in the process of getting training for CWI certification. Most of the knowledge that I have acquired has come from on-the-job training, and being in the train industry for 22 years.

2. What advice would you give to young people, especially young women going into male dominated industries?

Advice that I would give young women: take the chance, even if it is out of your comfort zone, have confidence in yourself, and to never second guess yourself. Also, to have the mindset, that you can do anything you set your mind on. Another important thing, when someone else sees what you are capable of,  believe them and never doubt yourself.
Kimberly has worked at Vapor Stone the last two years and prior to joining the company, she was a design engineer for Swarovski/Schonbek (now W. Schonbek).

Manufacturing Engineering Technician

1. What education (formal or informal) pathway did you choose and how has it helped you through your career?

After joining the workforce, I have done informal and structural training, as well as attending college to further my education and achieving a degree in Industrial Technology. This has helped me in my career by being aware of business technologies and allowing me to recognize how to use my skills more efficiently.

2. What advice would you give to young people, especially young women going into male dominated industries?
Do whatever it takes, whether it be education or workforce experience, to feel comfortable to speak your voice and be heard.

3. Did you have a mentor? What was memorable about that person?

Yes. He took the time to listen to my goals and helped me make a plan on how to achieve them.

MRR Electronic Technician III

1. What education (formal or informal) pathway did you choose and how has it helped you through your career?

I went back to Clinton Community College when I was 36 because I wanted to be an example for my son.  I decided to enter the Electronic Technology program because I enjoyed fixing my son’s dancing characters when they stopped working.

I finished school with 2 Associate Degrees, one Electronic Technology: Electronics and one Liberal Arts Math and Science and I graduated with Summa Cum Laude. Upon graduation I started working at Vapor Stone Rail Systems in the Electronic Lab, repairing circuit boards to the component level.  There was an adjustment to apply what you learned in the program to what is in real life.  That education program gave me the best foundation to start my career. It is what drives me to keep me learning and growing every day.

2. What advice would you give to young people, especially young women going into male dominated industries?

The advice that I would give to the young women entering this male dominated business is that it will not always be easy.  You will meet people especially men who will dismiss you, belittle you and just plain not respect you.  I experienced this when I started 9 years ago, and I am still experiencing these issues.  

Always remember who you are and know your abilities and strengths and NEVER let others make you doubt yourself.  This is a very difficult at times, and I have faltered and allowed the doubt to creep in.  It was at that moment that I have to look within myself and build my confidence back up.  

It is helpful to have some male co-workers especially who truly appreciate all the work and knowledge I have gained through the years.  Those co-workers help keep me strong.  Not all men will disrespect you and dismiss you, but just be prepared that it will no doubt happen at some point in your career.  It is how you handle the challenge and stay strong within yourself to overcome the sexist bias that still exists.

3. What positive changes would you like to see in your industry and/or in the Greater Plattsburgh region?

I would like to see a stronger stand against the sexist bias that still exists in the industry.  Sometimes, we are told that, this is how things are, and I don’t think this should be acceptable.  We need to make sure everyone is supported and listened to and not just dismissed because it is a difficult issue.
Holly's view of the North Country: "This region is the perfect big town or small city and offers so much growth opportunity. Invest in it and it invests right back into you."


1. What education (formal or informal) pathway did you choose and how has it helped you through your career?

My educational background at face value does not fit the typical educational path for those who ventured into manufacturing; My two majors during my Bachelor’s Degree were in Psychology and Sociology/Criminal Justice.

I then continued my education and pursued a Master’s of War Studies in International Terrorism. Again, face value one would not think manufacturing or HR would be my chosen path, alas, it is where I ended up and truthfully has helped in my career.

As an HR Manager, I need to be able to be both a Therapist and a Principal (stickler of the law); so both psychology and my studies of law have helped tremendously. In addition to these degrees, I also possess multiple certifications in HR Management, SHRM, Talent Integration, and in HR Business Partnership. These later certification courses really helped me grow up the career ladder and helped focus me not just on HR principles but operations as a whole.

2. What advice would you give to young people, especially young women going into male dominated industries?

I grew up in the manufacturing realm and I could clearly see how male dominated the manufacturing workplace is. Even in high school, Home Ec. was steered towards girls and Shop Class was steered towards boys. We all fell into those gender bias roles and took the gender bias classes. We need to break free of those stereotypes though and learn how to make these skills attributable to both girls and boys in school. I love these STEM Kits that are so prominent in today’s day and age, encouraging everyone to participate in the STEM fields and showing them just how much fun it can be. In manufacturing, you get to work with your hands every day, you get to fix problems, create solutions and build something that you can be proud of.

One of my favourite things to do when I travel to another city is to get on a train and know that I helped build part of that train; or know that my family member or friend who lives in a city, rides one of my trains every day on their commute to work. It can be such a rewarding career path. So I tell all young girls out there, forget about stereotypes, any girl that can wield a weld torch, a power drill or understand machinery just makes them stand out and be appreciated. You will get hired in an instant.

3. Did you have a mentor?

The reason I focused on HR in the manufacturing field is 100% because of my father; who was an employee of Bombardier (now Alstom) for over 28 years. Growing up running (safely of course) throughout the various manufacturing plants he worked at, or listening to his stories at the dinner table of his work day, intrigued me. Manufacturing is such a dynamic career realm; it is constantly changing with the world’s need for newer and better. My father was and still is my mentor; as the General Manager, working his way up through the ranks and through different departments, he has been able to discuss and teach me the inner workings of all things operations and what is needed to make a plant operate efficiently. He is also the greatest leader (that’s my non-biased opinion of course) I have ever seen. He manages and leads with respect and integrity, two of the most important qualities I believe a good leader possesses.

4. What positive changes would you like to see in your industry and/or in the Greater Plattsburgh region?

I think we can all agree in the North Country that we would love to see some diversity in our region, especially in our workplaces. And the only way to bring in that diversity is by offering more affordable housing and increasing our public transportation in order to encourage more people to come to our beautiful area. Greater diversity increases economic growth, something we all want for our region.

In addition to increasing growth in the area, we can solve the immediate staffing crisis by offering more training courses to our current residents. Prior to COVID-19, I had partnered with CV-Tech to launch a Women in Manufacturing training course, targeted towards women looking for good paying jobs that were interesting to them. The course was to teach women, who didn’t have the opportunity in school to attend shop class or didn’t feel it was ‘womanly’ to be able to use tools and build stuff, and give them the opportunity to learn these skills in a classroom with other like-minded women. Multiple manufacturing companies in the area joined in and helped create the curriculum. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic suspended this program, but we hope to start it up again in the near future.

+ About Vapor Stone Rail Systems

Vapor Stone Rail Systems is a division of Wabtec Corporation. The company established itself in Plattsburgh more than 20 years ago and was one of the first in the transit industry to choose Plattsburgh as a manufacturing location. In 2019, Wabtec Corporation, Vapor Rail Systems moved into TDC's newly constructed 60,000 square foot building on Arizona Avenue in Plattsburgh. This is the company's second location in the area which increased their manufacturing capabilities and added warehouse space. Read the full press release on the expansion here.

Wabtec Corporation's Vapor Stone Rail Systems is a prominent company in the transportation industry. They design, development, manufacture and distribute HVAC and door systems for commuter and passenger trains. As of 2019, the company has produced over 200,000 train metro doors for public transportation worldwide. Wabtec Corporation is a highly-integrated company specializing in locomotive, freight car, freight service, digital electronics, transit and mining. The transit sector of Wabtec Corporation provides advanced systems and services to "virtually every major rail transit system around the world, supplying an integrated series of components for buses and all train-related market segments that deliver safety, efficiency and passenger comfort" ( The company which employs over 27,000 people in over 50 countries, focuses on sustainability and innovative solutions by decarbonizing global transport and improving air quality.

Wabtec Corporation's Vapor Stone Rail System's new facility on Arizona Avenue. This facility is owned by TDC, it is our 22nd building which was built in 2018-2019. The photo on the left shows an automated step component that will later be assembled to a transit car to help passengers exit the train safely onto the platform.

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